The Senate minority leader is deferring a final verdict on Trump, even with the opportunity to do so via the president's forthcoming impeachment trial. McConnell's strategy reflects the consensus of his fellow Senate Republicans, who have watched uneasily as the House minority leader and conference chair staked out polarizing positions on Trump's conduct.
Two weeks ago, McConnell publicly castigated Trump by blaming him, in part, for feeding "lies" to the mob that invaded the Capitol, while privately signaling to associates that he was open to conviction. But then he sided with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to find Trump's impeachment trial unconstitutional — indicating that while he might criticize Trump at the conclusion of the process, he likely won't vote to convict.
McConnell has done little to hide his annoyance with the president, but allies say he is extremely unlikely to make a further break with Trump now. In fact, since his speech assigning blame to Trump, he's said nothing to his colleagues about Trump other than referring to his contacts with the former president's legal team, said one senator who attends meetings with McConnell.
"What we do talk about is that he's spoken to the president's attorneys. So he's not in direct conversations with the president," the senator said. The Jan. 19 speech "was his one outlet … he was very frustrated, that was why he did that one floor speech."